Under Maryland law, the Circuit Court for certain crimes has jurisdiction over criminal cases involving minors between the ages of 14 and 18. However, in such cases the defendant frequently requests what is known as a “reverse waiver” of the case to Juvenile Court where a child found involved in conduct that would constitute a crime if committed by an adult may receive different treatment than jail time. How the courts decide whether to send such cases to Juvenile Court was explored by Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in an unreported opinion this month in a case called Ricardo Reynoso v. State of Maryland.
The opinion indicates that the 15-year-old victim left school with her friend who had lured her into nearby woods to smoke. Three males wearing masks appeared with a knife, led away the accomplice and then robbed the victim of her phone. Reynoso stayed behind when the others left, and forcibly raped the victim as she struggled before letting her go. The defendant was 17 years old at the time.
After being charged in Circuit Court as an adult, the defendant’s lawyer moved for a reverse waiver to Juvenile Court. A psychologist testified that in the Juvenile system Reynoso could receive treatment until he reached age 21, and given his high level of social anxiety and close family ties he would benefit from treatment. The Department of Juvenile Services also recommended the waiver, but the trial judge denied the motion. A jury convicted Reynoso of rape, robbery and assault and he was sentenced to up to 14 years in prison and appealed.
The appellate Court noted that a reverse waiver may in the trial judge’s discretion be granted where the offender was at least 14 and not yet 18 years old at the time of the offense, and if the judge decides that at transfer to Juvenile Court is in the best interest of the alleged offender or society. The facts that the judge shall consider are: 1) that age of the child charged, 2) the child’s mental and physical condition, 3) whether the child is amenable to treatment in a facility or program for delinquents, 4) the nature of the charged crime, and 5) public safety.
The Court of Special Appeals noted that the trial judge is not required to weigh these factors equally, and held that it was not an abuse of discretion to deny the reverse waiver. Given the serious nature of the violent rape and that the defendant could pose a further danger to the public, trying him in adult court was held to be appropriate.
Thomas Patrick Ryan is a partner in the Rockville law firm of McCarthy Wilson, which specializes in civil litigation.